India vs South Africa 2019: The return of Wriddhiman Saha is well-deserved
He might not be an MS Dhoni or a Rishabh Pant who can bash the ball to all parts, but when it comes to pure keeping, Wriddhiman Saha is one of the best that India has produced. His agility, footwork and sheer presence behind the stumps are next to none, and so it is no surprise that he has been called up to the team after his recovery from injury.
The period which Saha missed included two tough overseas tours, where his replacement Pant scored a century each in England and Australia. You would think it would be difficult to drop Pant after his outstanding knocks in the five-day format, but with Saha available India went for the better keeper rather than the better batsman.
Saha is no mug with the bat either, but he does need to improve his skills especially when India are on tour. The New Zealand tour will be a stern test for Saha both as a batsman and as a keeper, but one thing is for sure: he won't lack in terms of dismissals behind the stumps, whatever the conditions.
Saha is athletic and quick with the gloves, and he also makes sure he doesn't give away byes - which we have seen all too often by Indian wicketkeepers in overseas conditions.
India is not an easy place to keep either, especially when the likes of Ravichandran Ashwin and Ravindra Jadeja are ripping the ball and turning it square. Saha still manages to collect the ball cleanly and effect dismissals when the ball is doing all sorts of things. He gives you dismissals that other keepers miss out on and that's why even if he is not the best of batsmen, he's still worth having in the team.
In the recently concluded first Test against South Africa we saw Saha being involved in a sharp stumping. He made it look easy but it was magnificent work behind the stumps; he collected the ball cleanly and in a blink of an eye the bails were off and the batsman was short of his crease.
Saha's speed behind the stumps is noteworthy, and if he continues his work diligently as a keeper then his position in Tests will be cemented for a long time. He did drop a catch during the match but we can cut him slack as this was his first match after a year.
Over the course of this series we will see Saha get into his stride and be back to his best, barring any injuries.
In his Test career thus far, Saha has 75 catches and 10 stumpings, and that's not to mention the number of runs he's saved down the leg side. These stats will continue to improve the more he plays; he just needs to ensure that he is fit and then allow his talent to do the rest whilst keeping.
Saha's batting average is 30.6 and if he can work on this, then it will do India wonders going forward in the ICC Test Championship. Keeping has always been his forte but he needs to make sure that he is scoring runs as well because the likes of Pant are lurking behind.
In the past India have gone with batsmen who can keep, but with Saha they have emphasized the importance of being a solid keeper first - with batting being secondary. This decision will benefit India in the long term; the impact that a wicketkeeper has in a Test match is massive, and Saha will be sure to maximize dismissals and minimize runs behind the stumps.
Where does this leave Pant? He is still in contention considering his performances with the bat, but he should now focus on his keeping skills and look to improve his work behind the stumps. The day Saha gets injured or runs out of form, then Pant will get his place back in the Test side.